All right confession time.
I haven’t written a book in a really, really long time.
Let me give you some background. Last year I had no new books under contract. Thieftaker was written and in production. I had, at the very end of 2010, turned in the second Thieftaker book, Thieves’ Quarry. It was with my editor and awaiting his editorial comments (although I knew that it wouldn’t be edited for some time, given that Thieftaker was still more than a year from publication). And I had sitting on my hard drive, a couple of other projects that needed my attention at some point.
I spent 2011 a) creating a web presence for D. B. Jackson; b) revising Thieftaker 2 on my own and submitting that second version to my editor; c) finishing and revising a middle grade book that still needs another set of rewrites; d) writing Thieftaker short stories; and e) writing a new contemporary urban fantasy from start to finish. This year, in addition to promoting Thieftaker with the blog tour and book tour (which took up A LOT of my time), I have a) written more Thieftaker short stories; b) revised an old urban fantasy that is finally ready to be shopped around to publishers (Lucienne is shopping it now); c) revised that urban fantasy I wrote last year; and d) finally responded to my editor’s notes on Thieves’ Quarry. (Actually, I’m still working on this last item.)
But the last new book I finished was that contemporary UF I wrote last summer. I haven’t written a book since. I haven’t even started one.
And I admit that I’m a bit concerned about this.
It’s not that I’ve tried to start a book and failed. I haven’t. It’s not that I have no ideas for new books. I have plenty. In fact, Lucienne and I have pitched two new Thieftaker books and hope to sell them to Tor very soon. And that older urban fantasy we’re shopping now comes with a proposal for two more books. With any luck at all, by the end of the calendar year, I’ll have five books under contract, four of which I will have to start working on pretty soon.
Rather, it’s that I feel out of practice. I worry that I’ve forgotten how to do this. For the first time in a long time, I find myself intimidated by the prospect of taking on a new book-length project. It’s like I’ve neglected a workout regimen for too long and now feel so out of shape that I’m afraid to go back to the gym.
I know that I haven’t forgotten how to write. I think that once I get involved in whatever book I choose to write next, I’ll discover that all the revising and rewriting I’ve done in the past year has actually improved my craft. My fears are rooted more in process, in getting my daily word counts back up to where they need to be, in tackling the plotting and organization of a new narrative.
I share this because I think it’s sometimes valuable for aspiring writers to hear that their fears and worries are not all that different from those of the professionals whose books line the shelves of their favorite bookstores. The fact is, every professional I know grapples with an array of fears and concerns. Will my books sell? Will I find a publisher for my new project? Is my work in progress as bad as it seems to be, or will it turn out okay? What if this is the story idea that doesn’t pan out, that stalls and never gets started again? What if I’ve lost it? What if, what if, what if . . . ?
These are not the fun “What ifs?” that fuel our creativity. These are the evil ones that paralyze us during the day when we ought to be working, and keep us lying awake at night. We’ve discussed “fear” a lot in recent months here at MW, and this, I suppose is one more installment in that collection of posts. Writing fears come in all shapes and sizes, they assail us from all angles, and they don’t care how experienced we are, or how well-known, or how “successful.”
How am I going to deal with my fear this time around? Same way I always do, I suppose. I don’t know when I’ll start a new book, or which of my planned books that first new one will be. A lot depends upon how the business side of this shakes out, and which contract comes through first. But at some point in the next couple of months, I am going to put my B in the C and I’m going to start outlining. I will come up with plot points, I’ll develop new characters and take stock of recurring ones. And then I will write. It’ll go slowly at first; it always does. Those first couple of chapters will be agonizing. I might even write a post or two about how much my new book sucks and how slowly the progress is coming. But it will get better as I go along. It always does.
Because while this fear is sort of a new one for me, fear itself is an old adversary — sort of the Sephira Pryce to my Ethan Kaille. I know her tactics; she knows my weaknesses. In the end, though, this is my story. I control the outcome. I am going to write my next book — whatever it is — and it is going to be good. I am the hero of this little drama, and ultimately the hero always prevails.
So now it’s your turn. You probably have writing fears with which you’re grappling. Want to tell us about them? Care to share your strategies for overcoming them?David B. Coe http://www.DavidBCoe.com http://www.dbjackson-author.com http://magicalwords.net
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